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SGA Vice President Hillary Shah resigns, citing “consistent isolation, dismissal, and belittlement”

SGA Vice President Hillary Shah resigns, citing “consistent isolation, dismissal, and belittlement”

SGA Vice President Hillary Shah resigns, citing “consistent isolation, dismissal, and belittlement”
December 05
17:58 2019

Student Government Vice President Hillary Shah has resigned, according to a letter of resignation obtained by the Daily. 

“After months of deliberation, I have decided to resign from my position as SGA VP effective today,” Shah’s letter of resignation read. “I’ve been unable to perform to the best of my ability, or truly even half of my ability, because of consistent isolation, dismissal, and belittlement behind my back where it got to the point where I still feel like I’m not allowed to be in the spaces I deserve to be in as I was also elected by the student body. I have been marginalized to the perimeter and not been cared about beyond what I could provide.”

Shah said that expectations on her and others “who have left as well were were unreasonable and inconsistent with expectations placed on the rest of the administration.”

“Towards the beginning of the semester, I reached out multiple times to the person who I viewed as my partner in this administration regarding the beginning of this degradation,” Shah’s letter said. “It was directly told to me that she did not care about me, and my mental state not only didn’t matter to her, but I was not able to be seen as a human outside of a professional worker – and when I bought this up later on multiple times and explained it hurt me, there was no denial nor apology.  Instead, my reaching out was in turn used as a scapegoat for other failures and explanations as to why the senate was failing in attendance or not submitting legislation despite my best efforts or control.”

An SGA committee member who wished to remain anonymous due to their position said that Shah’s resignation “does not tell the full story.”

“Hillary did not advise senators well, they usually come to other exec members and SGA members for advice,” the SGA committee member said. “I’ve also seen her absent from posted office hours on multiple occasions. This resignation does not tell the full story and is an illegitimate smear from someone who doesn’t want the accountability that comes from being on top of an office hierarchy.”

In her letter Shah said that she was “never allowed to be a part of decisions that I should’ve been able to as someone with my name on the administration who was elected by the student body, because the door was completely shut to me and I was on a need to know basis as punishment for reaching out.”

SGA responded to Shah’s resignation on Twitter with an attached letter.

“Earlier today Student Government Association Vice President Hillary Shah submitted her resignation effective immediately and we wish her all the best in her future endeavors,” the letter said. “While our staff is changing, our promises aren’t.”

In the letter, SGA announced that Deana Ayers has been appointed to be the next SGA vice president, pending approval by the student senate. Ayers served as the Governmental Affairs Director and Chair of the City and State Relations Committee this semester.

“I will say that I think Hillary did a great job,” SGA College of Music Senator Loke Lovett said. “And I look forward to seeing the good work she’ll do in the future.”

In her letter, Shah also said that the SGA chief of staff resigned two weeks ago after facing similar treatment to Shah.

“They left after finding an informal list that the majority of staff excluding me had written filled with both personal and professional grievances – many of them not true or exaggerated – to use as a justification for why they needed to go,” Shah’s letter said. “I had no clue this was occurring less than 10 feet away from me until it was presented to me at the very last minute as an already made decision, with no room to discuss otherwise.”

When addressing their resignation alone, former SGA Chief of Staff Hanlyn Tyler said they were so focused on getting out of the organization that they did not think about what changes should be made within SGA.

“I hope that they realize that not only as an administration but as people, you can’t just throw people away,” Tyler said. “Whenever they don’t serve you, or whenever they don’t. Whenever you don’t like that they’re doing whatever they’re doing for you. I hope that we all can do better.”

Tyler said they quit, in place of being fired, due to mental and physical health reasons.

“I do want to emphasize that I wish the remainder of the staff, the best of luck,” Tyler said. “I truly do. I do believe in what they do. I mean, I’m not here for drama. I was here to be a public servant. And I hope to continue being a public servant in the future. But it was clear that I couldn’t, and it’s clear that others, cannot operate in that office.”

Shah called that situation “reflective of the continuing unprofessionalism and attitude as a whole and exemplifies why I cannot remain in this administration.”

“In fact when I gave my resignation to the President of SGA at 1PM this Tuesday and asked to keep it private until I told the rest of the staff as is customary, I came back less than 2 hours later to find out that everyone already knew and were discussing theories about why I left and potential celebrations of my absence, because I didn’t fit into the group they had made in the administration I founded,” Shah said in her letter.

“It makes me so disappointed in SGA,” Angie Whistler, Honors College senator and SGA Senate speaker pro-tempore, said. “These aren’t our morals, these aren’t our values and this is not how leaders act. I hope this acts as a wake-up call to their behavior and they can finally see their actions consequences … Even as senators, we heard the immature comments made by certain [executive] members, and this issue wasn’t even this bad when I was in high school.”

Shah said that she is “not writing all of this to cause drama or be the center of attention.”

“I have always preferred to simply do the work for the betterment of others, which is why I liked being Vice President so much because the purpose of my job was low-profile but integral to helping senators do their work,” Shah said. “These words have not much to do with the senators, but I’m writing this because I need to be honest with you all and respect you all so much. I additionally want to give my experience and reflective introspection as a note to those left behind, including you all and even the general student body.”

Shah said that the SGA senators were the best part of being vice president and said she was proud of the work they’ve done together.

“The work we’re doing is important and we need to be making sure we open to door to everyone, not just those in certain cliques or affiliations as SGA has been prone to do in the past and is the essence of what I ran against,” Shah said. “As for me, I’ve had a consistent track record of successes in public service and I know I’ll be okay. Based on the conversations I’ve been having with y’all these past few weeks for the next semester, I know y’all will be too.”

Graduate Student Council President Tiffany Miller said she wishes Shah the best.

“She has a servant’s heart and will work hard in whatever adventures on which she chooses to embark,” Miller said. “Regarding the remaining Exec within SGA, I also wish them the best moving forward. I hope this will be a learning opportunity for everyone involved.”

In her letter, Shah also reaffirmed her belief in student government.

“The legislation we passed this semester has already been getting a lot of attention and affirmation from faculty, and I encourage everyone to keep up the true hard work we’ve put in,” Shah said. “Even if the leadership has a misstep in priorities, I know the senate will not. You are the true representatives of the student body, and just because you’re a volunteer and don’t have a fancy office or your name in the paper, doesn’t mean you aren’t able to open the door and create change.”

At the end of the letter, Shah reiterated her thanks to the Senate and the student body.

“Again, words cannot begin to express how thankful I am for what you all and the student body have given to me,” Shah said. “I look forward with excitement to not only working with you again, but all that you are going to accomplish in your time here at UNT.”

Whistler, who worked closely with Shah, said she is “shocked, heartbroken, but not surprised it came to this” when addressing Shah’s resignation.

“I truly and desperately hope this acts as a wake-up call for them to reassess their values and actions,” Whistler said. “But what I think will happen, and is already happening, is that they’re going to dismiss it, diminish it, spread false claims about it, and then use it as a division until people who don’t agree with them leave.”

SGA President Yolian Ogbu and Deana Ayers have been contacted for comment. This story is developing.

Featured Image: Student Government Association Vice President, Hillary Shah, stands in the UNT Union. Photo by Hope Alvarez

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Lizzy Spangler

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